German Help Saved Kidnapped Senator in Colombia
RZ (Rheinzeitung) No. 222 24.09.1998
German government and ex-agent Mauss helped former parliamentary president Espinosa – peace process continues
Senator Carlos Espinosa has a difficult time behind him and an easy task ahead. This afternoon the former Colombian parliamentary president will arrive at Frankfurt airport to give his personal thanks to German intelligence services coordinator Bernd Schmidbauer.
Without the help of the German government, Espinosa is convinced, he would not have gotten out of the hands of the guerrillas so quickly. However the senator’s thanks are due not only to the Chancellor’s Office in Bonn.
Former super agent Werner Mauss and his wife Ida also played a crucial part in the release. Assuring this newspaper that he has “a mandate from the guerrillas and the government in Bogotá”, Mauss indicated that he also wants to have a mediating role in the Latin American country in the future.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) with its 5000 armed fighters had kidnapped Colombian politician Espinosa on the 2nd of August – apparently in protest against massacres by right-wing paramilitaries.
“The peace process is our biggest challenge in Colombia”, Espinosa commented shortly before his release on September 20th – a man, unshaven for several days, his clothes and shoes were torn and dirty. The ELN guerrilleros had taken their prisoner on long marches through the sierra for days on end.
Senator Espinosa’s trip to Germany also has a further objective, beyond paying tribute to Schmidbauer, however. “I am also travelling officially, in the name of the senate, in order to sound out the situation with regard to a German mediating role”, said the politician yesterday to this newspaper.
Colombia needs all the help it can get. Since the peace talks in Mainz and Wurzburg – initiated by the Catholic Church – the country has been attempting to leave its years of internecine civil war behind and take the first faltering steps towards reconciliation. However for new President Andrés Pastrana too, the solution to the problems caused by his country’s social divisions has proved elusive and he has failed to put a stop to the escalating violence. Just a few days ago in the south of the country, priest Alcides Jiménez was shot 18 times, executed before his church altar, in front of his own congregation. What is still unclear is whether the murderers were radical right-wing paramilitaries who, according to information from Church circles, sometimes work in collaboration with government authorities, or the work of leftist-oriented guerrilla groups.
Anna Dirksmeier, Colombian expert for the German Episcopal welfare organisation Misereor, sees the latest murder as evidence of the violence reaching a new dimension: “Those who do these things are evidently not even worried about being recognised anymore. And they have committed this murder in a church, something that has always been taboo.” In Colombia almost all politically motivated acts of violence go unpunished. Despite the numerous setbacks however, Anna Dirksmeier believes that the peace process can succeed. Präsident Pastrana has announced the demilitarization of five municipalities, for example. That is “a first step”.
Freed senator Espinosa also still sees a realistic chance of success for the peace process. However a “lasting” reconciliation, he believes, “depends on assistance being forthcoming for the poorer regions of the country.”
By courtesy of the publisher